Saturday, December 16, 2017 7:32

Feeling Full Start with Breathing

Posted by on Tuesday, May 26, 2009, 10:20
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We seldom notice our breathing, but we inhale and exhale thousands of times each day. We take each breath automatically and rarely think about it. We might hold our breath and try not to inhale too deeply if we detect an unpleasant odor, such as exhaust from a passing car.

This is one way we attempt to protect ourselves from toxic fumes. On the other hand , when we detect an especially appealing scent, such as the smell of lilacs in the spring, we may purposely breathe more deeply to enrich the experience. It is one of life’s pleasure.

When we inhale, odor molecules enter a nostril, and normally, the air descends to the lungs. When air currents develop in the nose, the molecules are able to reach the epithelial in the olfactory or smell center in the top of the nose, just behind the bone we call the bridge of the nose. The epithelial are protective, mucous coated membranes about the size of a shirt button or a dime.

I like to think of these air currents as small gales or tornadoes that develop because we inhale deeply. Odd as it might seem, these strong air currents develop when the nose is partially stuffed up. Furthermore, our olfactory ability depends on which nostril is open and which is closed.  Although you seldom notice it, both nostrils are not equally open or closed at any given time. In fact, one is usually open while the other is closed, and in the normal course of things, this changes every eight hours or so. We call this the olfactory cycle.

You can test the olfactory cycle for yourself. Put your index finger over one side of the nose to close nostril and then inhale. Close the other side of the nose and inhale again. One nostril will be more open than the other. You will actually have better olfactory ability in the nostril that is more stuffed up.

An odor molecule in the air makes its way to the top of the nose to a pin sized area of the olfactory membrane molecule sites on the olfactory nerve. These receptor sites may be very specific, in that they are designed to detect particular odor molecules. We also know that some odor molecules respond better at some  receptor sites that at others, which is part of the mechanism that allows us to discriminate between odors and identify odors that are present in our environment, each of these receptors and we have millions of them will link with odor molecules that match them.

Once an odor molecule reaches a receptor site, the body’s electrical signaling system begins operating. The odor molecules stimulates a long thin neuron nerve cell known as the bipolar receptor cell to fire. We can think of this as a stimulus response, odor molecule fire, mechanism.

Now a representation of the odor molecules is transmitted up to the olfactory bulb at the top of the nose. The important point here is that the representation or neural image or picture of the odor changes. Through a complex mechanism, the original odor stimulus is intensified by a factor of one thousand. The intensified odor signal is projected through the olfactory bulb and reaches the main components of the brain. In other words, the system operates to take individual odor molecules and then intensifies them in such a way that the brain can respond to them.

Unlike the other senses, the olfactory gateway to the brain is direct. The cornea acts as a physical barriers between neurons in the visual processing system and stimuli in the outside word. Similarly, the eardrum acts as a barrier between the auditory processing apparatus and the sounds we hear. The nose provides no similar barrier.

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